Baseball On My Brain


Sometimes you need an eye-opener
February 26, 2008, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

About a week and a half ago I was in Portland, OR for the quarterly meeting of the Northwest chapter of SABR, at which there was a presentation by the Savvy Girls of Summer.

If you’ve never heard of the SGoS, you will. They’re going to be pretty influential before too long. Stay tuned. If you have heard of them, well then you should have a good appreciation for what I’m talking about.

During their presentation, they basically asked why do you go to a ballgame? For me, the answer is simple – to see who wins and find out why along the way. Baseball is a game with an end result that at some level I’m interested in – and I want to pay attention to figure out why the result will come out the way it will. Simple, huh?

Well – not so fast. Not everyone is as interested in the result of the game as I am. Turns out, some people just like going to the ballgame to socialize, spend time with their families, get some sun (my apologies to those still in domed facilities) and so on. Hmmm…Houston, we have a problem.

Now I’m a pretty open minded guy — but this seems kind of hard to fathom. I could see and accept a lot of reasons to go to a ball game — to see your favorite player, and maybe hope to learn something about how to better play the game. Those I’m cool with. I’m sure there are more –they’re just not coming to me right now. But I think all of the reasons I’m OK with would having something to do with having a vested interest in the playing of and/or outcome of the game.

Maybe it’s the environment I work in, maybe it’s the people I socialize with. Maybe it’s just the way I am. Nevertheless…

Later that night I went to see a guy by the name of Tim Berne. I had never heard of him, had no idea what I was in for, and so on. I simply was excited to be in town for the Portland Jazz Festival and wanted to see and hear as much as I could as possible.

So to the show I went – I got a great ticket at a great price – and needless to say I was probably the most uninformed jazz fan there. At least I want to think that way. Makes the story better.

There were people all around me who had a much better idea what they were listening to — now I listen to my local jazz station like a lot of folks, but I really don’t have a depth of knowledge about the subject. Nor do I play a musical instrument — another talent I wish I had.

And suddenly I understood what the Savvy Girls were talking about. I wasn’t there to learn about music, nor was I particularly interested in what Mr. Berne was playing. I was just there for the entertainment. It was like walking into a ballgame and not knowing that they even keep score and were playing to win — let alone that they keep statistics and this process happens 162 times a year and has been happening for decades in cities all across the country – and all over the world.

I felt almost vulnerably ignorant – but not ashamed or embarrassed of it. When I went to an open-mic and open-instrument jam session afterwards, the process was repeated. Sure I had heard some of the tunes that were played and I had a basic understanding of how the music was being made – I certainly had no idea of what the thought process was in the heads of the musicians, or probably in the heads of most of the other people in that room. I sat there and soaked it in, unhampered by the filters that we all absorb the world through — our prejudices, stereotypes and pre-conceived notions. It was raw – and it was pretty cool.

Translate that to a baseball game — I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of baseball games by this point in my life. And while no two are exactly the same – I know that I watch them with certain biases.  I watch the catcher probably more than most, and I like watching the little movements of the fielders as they respond to the differing circumstances and situations that the game constantly presents. I’m not as pitcher-hitter focused as I think most people are — I like watching the surrounding show. Only one guy can have the ball at one time — it’s fascinating to me to see what the other eight are doing.

In one day I went from the relative comfort of a baseball meeting to jazz – an environment where I am a card-carrying novice-novice. And I’m all the better for it. And what fitting environments to go between — two things that America will hopefully be remembered for long after we’re all gone – and something that greats like Buck O’Neil held in high esteem as two things that mirror each other. “It’s all jazz…”as Buck would say.

I think we all get stuck in our comfort zones too much – maybe out of a sense of security, maybe out of laziness to find something new to explore and expose our ignorance within.

So while I won’t change why I go watch a ballgame – I can at least say I have a little bit more appreciation and understanding when it comes to people who don’t watch for the same reasons I do.

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[…] matchups, Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Varitek, Brad Lefton If you go back to one of my earlier posts, I had a bit of an awakening as to how people watch the game […]

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